'American Idol': Where Did It Go Wrong?
Judges Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez, and Harry Connick Jr. on 'American Idol'
Once upon a time, "American Idol" rivaled the Oscars telecast for TV viewers. Last week, it got beat in the weekly Nielsen ratings by the Will Arnett sitcom "The Millers."
"All prominent TV shows eventually go into decline," Jeffrey McCall, professor of communications at DePauw University, said via email.
All things considered, "Idol" is coming in for a soft landing. For the TV season to date, the show's Wednesday edition is averaging more viewers (13.8 million) than all but 11 other broadcast network shows.
But "Idol" isn't just a smaller version of its old self; it's a quieter version of its old self, too. In its recap of a recent performance show, Entertainment Weekly dinged this season's contestants for their "placid mediocrity," for being "JUST NOT GREAT."
Two of the most popular theories — the upheaval at the judges' table, and the star power (or lack thereof) among the singers — don't entirely jibe with the numbers.
While "Idol" enjoyed its biggest years under the judging trio of Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, and Randy Jackson, the show maintained its No. 1 Nielsen status after Kara DioGuardi was added in 2009, after Abdul left prior to the start of the 2010 season, and after Cowell and DioGuardi both exited prior to the 2011 competition.
In 2011, in fact, the first thoroughly overhauled version of the show, with Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler added to Jackson's depleted ranks, enjoyed its most watched season finale (29.3 million viewers) since the heyday of Taylor Hicks, back in 2006.
Hicks discusses Vegas and the mysterious whereabouts of that famous purple jacket:
True, Lopez and company didn't carry their momentum over to 2012, and, also true, the Mariah Carey-Nicki Minaj experiment in 2013 didn't stop the ratings slide, nor has the return of Lopez and the debut of Harry Connick Jr. this year.